Fairfield new business starts nearly double in 2022

FAIRFIELD — The number of businesses opening in Fairfield last year more than doubled compared to 2021, and officials say business and momentum are strong.

The town welcomed 75 new brick-and-mortar businesses, including Isla & Co., Sally’s Apizza, Trek Bicycle, Evolution Gaming and Ryoma Coffee World, first-term Councilwoman Brenda Kupchick said in her newsletter.

“Behind the scenes, the collaborative and productive work of our licensing department to assist businesses throughout the process sends a message that Fairfield welcomes new businesses into our community,” she said. “The success of our local businesses is the success of Fairfield, and as a town we strive to assist in these efforts in any way we can.”

In a newsletter in late 2021, Kupchick said more than 40 businesses opened in town that year, including Aldi’s and Floor & Décor, which opened in a former Kohl’s location.

Mark Barnhart, director of the Fairfield Office of Community and Economic Development, said the town has all the key criteria businesses look for when deciding where to do business, including available skilled labor, transportation infrastructure and quality of life.

“That sums up what Fairfield has to offer,” he said. “The fundamentals of our local economy are pretty solid.”

A number of major development projects were completed in the town last year, with many more approved or in progress.

At a recent Finance Committee meeting, Barnhardt said Fairfield has a high-income population, strong financial management and stable tax rates. Beyond that, the town is not an island and, like the rest of the country and the world, is experiencing some headwinds, he said.

“It’s a good thing that unemployment is at or near historic lows,” he said. “But it also points to a tight labor market. We’ve spoken to a lot of businesses here and elsewhere. A lot of businesses are still having trouble finding workers, keeping workers, et cetera. They’re also… dealing with supply chain disruptions. Overall Overall prices are still well above where they were a year or two ago.”

Office vacancy rates were heading in a good direction, Barnhart said, adding that Fairfield was the lowest in the region. Construction activities in the town in 2022 are well underway, he said.

“If you drive around the city, you’ll see construction going on,” he said. “We built the medical office building opposite the Hotel Hi-Ho, a new three-storey mixed-use building for a law firm in the city center and the veterinary hospital Greenfield Hill Animal Hospital finally got approval.”

Barnhardt noted that only 4.5 percent of Fairfield’s land is zoned for commercial or industrial use, but said it is highly productive, making up more than 12 percent of the overall list.

“It shows that we don’t have a lot, so obviously, what we have to deal with, we have to use it efficiently and to the fullest,” he said.

Kupchick touted the Fairfield Metro intersection, which broke ground last fall after years of stalling, as a major win for the town’s development. She noted that the completed project will include a hotel, 70,000 square feet of commercial office space, 40,000 square feet of retail space and 357 new housing units, 20 percent of which will be affordable housing.

“The project is expected to generate more than $4 million in net new tax revenue annually when fully expanded, which will provide a significant boost to our community’s tax base and economic development,” she said.

Barnhart said construction began on a residential building on the site, which is the largest land available for development in town.

Some of the larger multifamily, mixed-use developments do make significant per-acre yield contributions to the town’s big list, Barnhardt said. He noted that developers are working on plans for the former Exide Battery site, which was purchased in 2020 for $4.5 million, though he added that officials were not happy with the original plans.

“We said, ‘You’re not really taking advantage of this site,'” he said. “For our previous discussions, we don’t have many of these sites. We have to use them wisely.”

Barnhardt said he has been optimistic about the direction Fairfield is headed in terms of economic development, adding that trends tend to have peaks and troughs. Rising interest rates and material costs lead him to think some of that will slow, he said.

“I think those who are currently in the funnel will move on,” he said. “I think there’s a lot to like here. It goes back to the fundamentals. The fundamentals in Fairfield are very strong. We don’t have some of the issues that other communities in the state have. The things we can control are our own land use and licensing process.”


Source link